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Artificial turf levels playing field for Brown football

Turf caters to speed, safety of athletes as team eyes championship

Brown athletics announced Tuesday that the playing surface at Brown stadium will be upgraded to artificial turf prior to the start of the upcoming season. The new playing surface will be named the Richard Gouse field at Brown Stadium in honor of the project’s lead donor, Richard Gouse ’68, who was inducted as an honorary member of the Brown athletics hall of fame for his contributions to the program.

Although the team has historically played games on grass, they already practice on the same model of turf that will be used in the stadium. “This will be the newest and best model,” Head Coach James Perry said. “It is what we practice on every day.”

Artificial turf is more conducive to speed compared to real grass, a point of emphasis for the current team. “Speed is a priority of Perry's and this field will suit that kind of a team,” Gouse said. “Artificial turf really allows you to benefit from a team that's fast as opposed to traditional grasses.”

“Having a perfect playing surface — which is what artificial turf is — is going to be an amazing thing for us as a team,” said quarterback and team captain EJ Perry ’21.5. “Turf definitely allows you to play faster, and that's one of the things we train for. We want to play fast.”

Coach Perry agreed that speed was at the top of the team’s preparation for the upcoming season. “Speed permeates every decision that we make,” James Perry added. “That means recruiting players who are fast, and once they're here at Brown, we've designed our player development program to cultivate speed. It only makes sense that then we'd play on a surface that would showcase that.”

Brown is the last of the Ivies to implement artificial turf in their stadium. The team’s previous playing surface was an irregularly shaped grass field approaching a century of heavy use. “The field was almost 100 years old and it was domed in the middle,” Gouse said. “It was a strange, non-traditional field. You could actually see it rise and fall from sideline to sideline.”

In addition to flattening the playing field, the new turf will be immune to the degradation common in grass as games wear on. “The grass field kind of gets beaten up throughout the game,” said halfback and team captain Allen Smith ’22. “Later on in the game, more slips happen and it's harder to make some of those cuts that you could early on in the game. If the grass is torn up, you don’t have great surface traction.”

Suboptimal conditions during Providence winters exacerbated the grass field’s issues, putting players at higher risk of injury. “You would play late in the year and it would be a mud bowl,” James Perry said. “The amount of muscle pulls that you would have when the dirt kicks up is tremendous. And if you did catch actual rain, it would not be a good surface to play on — not a good surface to watch the game being played on.”

“I believe that this will enable a much longer seasonal use of the field,” Gouse added. “And there are other alternatives I think it could be used for and hope that it will be used for.”

Gouse, a member of the University’s sports foundation, has been involved with the football program for over 50 years and serves as a mentor for numerous players on the team. “I've known him for 25 years, but for even longer than that he's been a central figure in a lot of football players' lives,” Coach Perry said. “So that's a neat aspect of him being the lead donor and the field being named after him — he's just a really active guy in Brown football.”

A number of Brown alums contributed to the project alongside Gouse, including fellow athletic hall of fame inductee Paul Choquette ’60. “Paul was a mentor of mine when I was an undergrad here,” James Perry said. “So it was really nice that he stepped up.”

For Gouse, the new playing surface is emblematic of the University’s investment in the success of the football program. “Having observed Ivy League football for my whole adult life, I can tell you that Coach Perry is a winner, and that he’s going to make sure that this team wins,” Gouse said. “In order for him to have that happen, it takes a commitment from the University as well. And I think that what speaks most eloquently to that commitment is Christina Paxson’s hiring of (Vice President of Athletics) M. Grace Calhoun, one of the most respected and successful athletic directors in the country.”

“President Paxson has made a real commitment to doing things at a first rate level in athletics and across the whole school,” James Perry said. “Having that leadership that starts with her was huge and this project certainly would not be possible without President Paxson’s support.”

Although only first-years have been able to train on campus during the summer, the entire team is eager to prepare for their first game on the new field against University of Rhode Island Sept. 18. “Even the camp practices and every aspect of (training) is going to feel so amazing,” EJ Perry said. “There's going to be a tremendous sense of gratitude and a tremendous sense of happiness for all the things that we're going to be able to do next year.”

“We’ve made big strides since the last time we played in 2019,” Smith said. “It will have been almost two years (since our last game) when we kick off against URI on the new field. We’re chasing after a ring — the goal is to get a championship.”

Gouse, who also has Sept. 18 circled on his calendar, shares Smith’s optimism. “I've seen the history of athletics at Brown for a long time — the commitment to the program that was just made … is exceptional,” Gouse said. “And you will see big things happen in the next couple of years.”


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